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What is steel cut oatmeal?

Irish Oatmeal
Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oats or pinhead oats, are whole oat groats that have been chopped into large pieces and make a minimally processed cereal with a good oat flavor and a hearty texture. They are different from regular oatmeal because of the way that the oats are processed. Most oatmeal is made by rolling the oats under heavy rollers until they are flat, then lightly steaming and toasting them. This process makes the oatmeal cook quickly and have a soft, tender texture to it. Steel cut oats resemble very small, coarse grains of rice. They have a coarser texture than rolled oats and the oatmeal has a chewier texture, as well as an even more pronounced oat flavor to it.

Rolled oats are generally better for baking because they do not need to be cooked before being incorporated into cookies and cakes. They are flavorful and tender in baked goods, while steel cut oats can be overly coarse and can add a heavy texture to baked goods. Steel cut oats make a great breakfast cereal, however, and take on a lovely texture after a long, slow cooking process. Since making steel cut oats isn’t as fast as turning rolled oats into breakfast, it is best to make a big batch and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. With a little water or milk, the chilled steel cut oats can easily be reheated in the microwave without having to make a whole new batch.

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  • Catherine
    February 25, 2011

    What a huge help this is! I needed oatmeal for a recipe once & the only kind the little bodega had was Irish oats, & I just couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t incorporate into the dough. Now I know! As someone who eats oats in one form or other just about every day, I probably should’ve known this even sooner.

  • Tiffany
    February 25, 2011

    I’ve always wanted to try steel cut oats because I heard that they were better for you than rolled oats, but I didn’t really know the difference between the two. Thanks for the info!

  • Jean
    February 25, 2011

    I love steel cut oats but they do take a bit more preparation.
    I bring my water to a boil…then add the oats, stir and cover. I let them sit overnight and then cook them for a bit in the morning. Its an easy way to give them a head start.

  • Pam
    February 25, 2011

    I love steel cut oats, just don’t like the lengthy cooking time. They absolutely have a better texture though.

  • Jim
    February 25, 2011

    I come from the US but live in Europe now (near Amsterdam) and when I’m back in the US I need to buy cans of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish oatmeal – it’s the only brand I know of. Funny thing though, I’ve been in Dublin a few times and the Irish there have never heard of it (they know McCann’s, but it’s the Quaker-instant variety…)

    Any suggestions as to where I can find some in Holland would be greatly appreciated!

  • Lori @ Girl Meets Oven
    February 25, 2011

    Great picture and description of steel cut oats. They are easy to prepare in the crock pot too. Alton Brown has a recipe for overnight oatmeal using steel cut oats that I highly recommend: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/overnight-oatmeal-recipe/index.html

  • Sarah
    February 25, 2011

    A friend just told me about Steel Cut Oats about a month ago, and I am in love. I think they taste so much better than instant oatmeal. 🙂

  • Heather
    February 25, 2011

    Thank you so much for this post!!

  • dg
    February 26, 2011

    i love steel cut oats, but……it’s the time to cook the stuff…..anybody got suggestions on how to cook these oats in less time?……thanks, so much….dg

  • rainey
    February 27, 2011

    I toast the oats in some walnut oil in the pan risotto style before I proceed. I use boiling water and buttermilk and then cook on a low temperature in a lidded casserole.

    They can be ready in just 15 minutes (not much longer than it takes a pot of coffee to brew completely) if you use water that’s already boiling.

    And, as Nicole says, a big pot keeps for about a week in the fridge for microwaving individual portions each morning.

    One part ground flaxseed meal to 2 or 3 or 4 parts of steel-cut oats increases the fiber and nutrition considerably.

    I don’t know about Amsterdam, I’m sorry to say, but in the US these are now very available at prices well below McCann’s tins in the buik section of Whole Foods and Henry’s markets and in cardboard canisters at Trader Joes. Arrowhead MIlls and Bob’s Red Mill also package it in cello so ask anyone who stocks those brands to get steel-cut oats for you.

  • marc
    February 27, 2011

    30 minutes or so. I think it’s worth it.

    1 c. steel cut oats
    3 c. water
    1 c. half & half
    pinch of salt
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Heat water (microwave or elec kettle) until near boiling. While water heats, toast 1 cup oats in sauce pan with 1 T. butter. Add water to pan and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Add salt, vanilla and half & half. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with favorite topping.

    1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup milk works well too.

  • Rice Kernel
    February 27, 2011

    Just wrote a post about my love of steel cut oats! I’ve discovered a frozen product from Trader Joe’s – delicious and convenient on days you’re too busy to cook a batch of them. But I agree, a big batch is easy to make and keeps well. thanks for sharing!

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